For some people, Knack has been the punchline of Sony’s robust firstparty line-up since the PS4 launched back in 2013. So when the news of a sequel broke, it was a little unexpected. Did Knack seriously need a sequel? Well it got one, and the big surprise with Knack 2 is that it’s not all that bad.
But then, I enjoyed Knack more than most people. It was a platformer with good ideas, fairly engaging combat and jolly nice animations, what's not to like? And Knack 2 is more of the same. The platforming has been tightened-up, there are some interesting new mechanics, and Knack’s repertoire of moves has increased, but one addition makes all the difference. Knack 2 has proper co-op.
Couch co-op may be undergoing something of an indie resurgence but, in the mainstream console industry, it's nowhere near as prevalent as it once was. That’s a shame because, for all that playing with people around the world is cool, the best co-op experiences always come on the couch with your nearest and dearest. Knack completely missed the mark the first time round; co-op was an advertised feature, but player two controlled Knack’s sidekick (Robo-Knack!) and added very little value to the game. One player was basically just following the other around. But Japan Studio has massively improved the multiplayer offering in Knack 2, and the only sad thing is that Robo-Knack is nowhere in sight.
The second player now controls another Knack. In cutscenes the pair form together to make one uber-Knack, a nice touch, and if a second player jumps into an ongoing singleplayer game the singleplayer Knack discombobulates into two separate characters. The two Knacks have the same skills and manoeuvres, and it makes an enormous difference to how much fun the experience is for both players. The only downside is that, without any split screen to speak of, if one player wanders too far away then the other will snap back to them. It can be a little bit annoying but, hey, that’s why teamwork is important.
Battering through waves of baddies with your buddy is always more fun than brawling alone, and the platforming sections become a riot as you laugh at each other's terribly-timed jumps. The game also throws in moments of competition to change things up: a quick time event will kick in, and you’ll both have to hammer a button to fill up a bar – player one from the left, player two from the right. Whoever gets to the middle first reigns supreme, the Best Knack. It’s entirely inconsequential to the game, but in the room it makes all the difference.
With a second pair of eyes on the screen, too, Knack 2's love of hidden secrets becomes even more of a feature. Little holes in the walls for tiny Knack to crawl into are easy to miss but, with two of you on the case, they're spotted faster, and finding treasure with teamwork is another of those happy little beats that make up Knack 2's co-op.
One of the unusual things about enjoying a game like Knack 2 is that you feel you somehow have to caveat it. Our industry's obsession with scoring and ranking everything means that, for some, a decent game is something to be derided. Knack 2 shows how daft such thinking is. This may be a 'decent' game if you're playing solo. But get it in the living room, grab a friend for co-op, and it's real good times.